Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Dream Tröll - Second to None (2019)



Country: UK
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 12 Jul 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | YouTube

Well, here's something special, for a number of reasons, only one of which is the fact that I'd highly recommend it.

Dream Tröll are based in Leeds, in northern England, and this is a follow-up to their debut album, The Knight of Rebellion. That was released in 2017 and this album is brand new, honestly released in July 2019, even though it has very little intention of acknowledging the new millennium. If it wasn't for the decent modern production, this would sound very much like it was made in the early eighties when I was a hop, skip and jump away in Halifax, a swift train ride from venues Dream Tröll might play.

And, as an old school metalhead who discovered rock and metal in 1984, this brings back so many memories. Most importantly, it doesn't just sound like a whole bunch of bands I remember from the hallowed pages of Kerrang! and my carefully recorded tapes of the Friday Rock Show, it sounds as good as any of them ever did and they're combined into a sound that somehow avoids what we might expect initially from the umlauted name and then everything else on offer, from the cover art to the promo photos, from the songs to the lyrics.

That's cheese and surely the greatest success this band have achieved is the fact that they're not cheesy at all when it's almost impossible for them to avoid it. They play traditional heavy metal with a NWOBHM mindset, a strong nod to power metal and a real taste for progressive rock. There's a point in The Lawmaker when I could have sworn I was listening to Marillion's Grendel. There are keyboards all over the place. The songs are long: the shortest of them over five and a half minutes, the longest over ten. And just listen to Chrome Skull Viper!

Beyond the song's title, which is so clichéd that I can imagine cover art, the lyrics sound rather like something Steel Panther might write in parody. "Transcending beyond worlds, through the howling vortex, the astral door reveals the chosen one. You want it! You got it! Dance with the chrome skull viper!" There's no way that this can't be embarrassing but it isn't. It's a damn good song and, while I really have to be in the mood to listen to Steel Panther, I'd happily listen to this album all day long. In fact I just did.

It's going to be fun trying to describe them because none of these songs are recognisable as any one influence, but many influences are overt. Let's just suggest that the band took every British heavy metal band from 1980 to maybe 1987, stuffed them into a blender, invoked the metal gods and hit the power, emerging fully formed as Dream Tröll. If I must focus closer, let's see the fundamental ingredients as Victim of Changes, Grendel, Kingdom of Madness, Lightning to the Nations and maybe even some Eye in the Sky, all wrapped up in the first couple of Demon albums.

There are no songs to highlight because every song is a highlight, complete with its own highlights. Legion is the epic but I'm not going to elevate it over The Lawmaker or Darkness Lies Within the Sun. Is Steel Winged Warrior a catchier song than Chrome Skull Viper? The Art of Death won't leave me alone and the other two tracks deserve mention too: Checkmate... Annihilate! and I Will Not Die Today. And those eight tracks, every one of which has its very own identity, almost reach an hour between them. There's no shortage of good material here.

In short, while this really ought to be awful, embarrassing, clichéd stuff, it may be the most fun I've had with an album all year. I adored every part of it. Now I need to look back to The Knight of Rebellion, which featured a smaller line-up (Paul Walsh has replaced Rob Stringer on vocals and they've hired an actual bassist, Paul Thornton, so Matt Baldwinson can stick to his guitar). In between was a three track EP, The Witch's Curse.

It's a good day. I've found a new favourite band!

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